Brick-and-mortar pharmacies dominate market over mail-order operations

[See also: Generic medications effective, save industry $1 trillion over last decade]

A recent report from J.D. Power and Associates indicates that customers are becoming less satisfied with purchasing prescriptions through mail-order pharmacies as compared to brick-and-mortar locations, especially in the area of cost.

According to the firm’s 2012 U.S. Pharmacy Study, overall satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies averages 792 (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2012, which is 22 points below the average overall satisfaction score for brick-and-mortar pharmacies this year, and 14 points lower than in 2011.

This marks the second consecutive year of significant declines in customer satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies, the report noted.

“What we found was that [mail-order pharmacies] are losing their advantage in terms of overall satisfaction,” said Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Three years ago, satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies was higher.”

Millard said in previous years both mail-order and brick-and-mortar pharmacies produced equivalent and high levels of customer satisfaction, but the mail-order outlets have lost ground this year and last.

According to Millard, while there have been decreases in customer satisfaction with mail order in several areas, “cost is the most influential factor.”

He believes the decline in satisfaction around cost could have a negative impact on mail-order pharmacies’ long-term business prospects and may foretell challenges to their business model.

“If your customers are satisfied, the cost of new customer acquisition is lower and the risk of losing existing customers is lower,” he said. “If more mail-order pharmacy customers become less satisfied, that can’t be a good thing. It means more people would be willing to go to the brick-and-mortar pharmacies.”

Millard notes that the loss of satisfaction around cost competitiveness is particularly troubling for mail-order pharmacies because this has been the factor that has traditionally made up for the lack of opportunity to develop a relationship with a local pharmacist.

“You may not have been able to have a personal relationship with the pharmacist, but you were compensated because you got lower cost and a great, convenient ordering experience that was hassle-free,” said Millard. “It is necessary for mail-order pharmacies to continue to deliver both.” [See also: Physician group opposes plan to allow pharmacists to prescribe certain drugs]

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